LAFAYETTE -- Like a supermagnet, the annual Lafayette Summer Music Workshop attracts hordes of young would-be Charlie Parkers and Diana Kralls to the weeklong August program directed by Stanley Middle School music director Bob Athayde.
Now in its 15th year, professional musicians -- from the Bay Area and beyond -- flock to the workshop's School Street location to lead classes emphasizing technique, improvisation, ear training, jazz history, beatbox, funk and more. Master classes, instructor performances and combo session rehearsals make it a five-day groove-fest. At the end, students show off their chops and faculty tag along as a slim part of the closing day concert.
Not any more.
Workshop graphic designer and flutist Sarah Wasley-Smith has attended the workshop for four years and every time, she says the final concert is "unbelievable," but never enough of a good thing.
"The faculty each play a bit and I've always wanted to hear more," she says. "I thought it would be great to have a local venue where the faculty could be featured."
The Big Room performance space at Colleen McCormick's nearby Lamorinda Music opened in the months since last year's workshop and Wasley-Smith jumped on what "seemed like a great opportunity."
A four-night series of 90-minute concerts will allow the pros to strut their stuff and add a public dimension to the workshop. At $10 a pop, it's top-flight bebop at a bargain basement price, and the only thing sweeter might be the local French Bakery's desserts, available for purchase.
Athayde calls Wasley-Smith "the guru of the night concerts," and says the new series "will provide great jazz at a low price to the listener and the possibility of eating locally before the concert."
The overall theme is simply jazz, Athayde and Wasley-Smith explain -- with a "what else is there" unspoken tone in their united voices. The faculty and their guest musicians will select the arrangements they will perform.
On Monday, Aug. 5, pianist Debbie Poryes will bring the eclectic influence of an international career to the keyboards while saxophonist Mary Fettig blows heat -- the kind that kept her latest CD, "Brazilian Footprints," on Jazzweek's top 50 chart for 20 weeks.
Deszon Claiborne holds up the self-taught tradition of some of the genre's greatest stars at the drums (his later training became formal and rigorous, just like the other pros on the roster) and bassist Peter Barshay and Erick Jekabson on trumpet round out the group.
Pianist Frank Martin, saxophonist Richard Condit and Daniel Lucca Parenti on bass join Claiborne for a Tuesday evening of a variety of styles.
After a 48-hour respite, trombonist Alan Ferber pushes the musical form's American-born sound envelope in new directions with bassist Peter Barshay and guest musicians. The series wraps on Saturday, with the multitalented Bruce Mishkit (not on faculty this year, but well-known to Bay Area audiences) and invited performers from his group Jon Herbst, Terry Miller, Greg Reginato and Eric Thompson.
"It's a great deal and a lovely, intimate place for music," Wasley-Smith says.
Athayde, riding the ever-expanding jazz empire in Lamorinda, says this might be the only chance to hear these musicians locally and with each group being so different, "the word 'jazz' has a lot of possibilities."
For information about the Lafayette Summer Music Workshop from Aug. 4-9, visit http://lafayettejazz.wordpress.com/about/. For information about the concerts on Aug. 5, 6, 8, 10, visit http://lafayettejazz.wordpress.com/events/